28 Jun 2014

Field Day in the Garden

I'm living it up in the garden right now, and more specifically in that little spot at the back of my parents' land, a patch that includes a patio where I organically 'grow things' mostly in pots, a tiny potager next to it where I grow tomatoes and courgettes (zucchini), and an adjacent plot where... things, errm, grow by themselves.

English rose bush from a Cheshire garden centre

But let's start off with the potted garden... I have resurrected my dear old classic English rose bush (see above) that I brought back from Manchester in 2011 (I flew it back locked in my suitcase!). Admittedly the rose bush has had its ups and downs, having to adapt to Mediterranean temperatures, but this year it has finally rewarded me with a bumper crop of flowers!

Potted hydrangea

Aside from that, I'm looking after my mum's potted hydrangea, lavender and thyme (which we keep for purely decorative purposes). I am experimenting with cuttings (fig tree, myrtus) and seeds (Eriobotrya japonica and lemon), without success so far, except for the baby avocado tree, grown from a stone. I've also set up a miniature potted mint nursery. I've got some succulents too (aeonium) and a couple of paltry cacti from England that oddly enough used to thrive better in the northern climes than closer to the Sahara latitudes, fancy that?

Wispy lavender swaying to a light breeze...
Small and perfectly formed thyme...
Baby avocado tree, grown from a stone...
Arty aeonium!

The wild plants that grow by themselves do so to my folks despair, since to them a wild garden equals uncouth and neglect – oh, and I'm giving up trying to convert them to permaculture! That little patch of wild is - surprise surprise! - my favourite spot in the whole garden, as much for the kid in me revisiting that TV classic from childhood - Little House on the Prairie - everytime I amble across the tall grasses, but also as an opportunity to satisfy the botanist side of my personality and gauge what grows, what might be tamed, and how rich the soil is.

A male Philaeus chrysops (a curious jumping spider, check out his eyes!)
A cricket playing hide-and-seek!
Fibonacci in action!

The soil is dark, crumbly and fertile and teeming up with life forms (worms, tiny snails, ants, arachnids, bugs and creepy-crawlies of all sorts). My parents estate is located in the plains, hardly a mile off the coastline, on former agrarian land enriched by a compost of sorts, naturally made up of sediments deposited by the nearby mountain chain and aggregated with those from the nearby brook, and kept in fairly good ambient humidity levels, heavy morning dew, humidity from the sea rising at night to the back lands, and moisture trapped in the plains.

XXL Zucchini!

Additionally, the underground water reserves are plentiful, as testified by the plethora of stone wells that the elders built during the 19th century and which only dry up in Summer. My parents have salvaged three of those wells in the garden and all of them have been dredged and are in working order. I've had a few pleasant surprises around the wild patch: wild and lush passiflora, the incredibly fragrant garden mint and other aromatics (melissa, aniseed), chard, bird feed (plantago), cornflower, Queen Anne's Lace (a.k.a. wild carrot), rumex, thistles, bramble (sigh!) and more.

Wild and lush passiflora
Wild fragrant mint
Wild chard

All in all, I do find the gardening a pleasurable experience and a stress-buster. Likewise when I lived in Manchester. Getting physical takes my mind off the nitty-gritty. And sometimes I will just sit quietly in the grasses and observe life at work, butterflies, bees, roaches, ants - fascinating! And for me to keep busy around the garden is also an incredible fuel to my creative inspiration! Maybe you should get down and dirty too (if you're not already)?

Those don't drive me potty!

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